For months, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a series of YouTube videos about writing, similar to the writing tips I have here on Sundays. If you search through YouTube you’ll find all kinds of tips — some really good and some really bad. I thought I would throw my hat into the ring, and, as a test run, I took my very first writing tip from this blog and created a short video for it. Not sure if it works. I’m trying to make these tips helpful, but also personable. Casual and fun, but informative. Here’s the first one. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is this worth pursuing? Or should I stick with type tips?
Authors Marcia Clark, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Scott Turow and George Pelecanos at BEA
“”I wasn’t watching a lot of ball games.” So said crime writer George Pelecanos during the “Inside The Mystery Writers Studio” panel at Book Expo America on Friday that featured, in addition to Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci, Scott Turow and moderator Marcia Clark. The discussion turned to how — in those early days — the authors balanced their writing with a full-time job. Pelecanos, whose new book The Double will be published this fall, said this:
“For my first eight novels I had a full time job during the day. so I would get up early in the morning and then I would come home at night to write. And I just considered it to be my second job…But in order to do that and sort of sacrifice, I mean, I wasn’t watching a lot of ball games on TV. All these things that you give up. You gotta love your other job too.”
I thought this was completely spot-on. As readers of this blog know, while working on Baby Grand, I set my alarm for the middle of the night to write or I didn’t go out as much with friends or my husband or my kids. I cut back on freelance writing. It’s all about sacrifice, yes, that’s true. But the key is this: While there’s guilt (and often lots of it) associated with sacrifice and not doing some of the things you want to do, you’re so passionate about what you ARE doing that it really doesn’t feel like sacrifice at all.
At the end of your eBook, place a link(s) that directs readers to where they can buy additional books of yours. This is one of the best tips I’ve read recently online (apologies for not remembering where I read it), and it makes complete sense. Readers are most apt to buy a book of yours if they’ve just read one and loved it. I can remember lots of times when I closed a book, leaned back and thought, Wow, that was good, and went to the bookstore to check out more things from that author (Dan Brown comes to mind). The best way to capitalize on that high in the eBook world is to have a link at the end of your eBook that brings readers to a book retailing website — Amazon, for example, if it’s a Kindle book. This way, they can buy another one of your books immediately — sort of like an impulse buy at the supermarket checkout, the well-I’m-here-anyway-so-I-may-as-well-buy-it kind of thinking. Chances are if readers really like your book, they will find their way to Amazon or Barnes & Noble on their own, but there’s nothing wrong with pointing them in the right direction.
Invite your writer-self to your evening out, but don’t let her monopolize it. One of the most difficult things about being a writer is trying to live your life in the moment and, at the same time, try to mentally record everything that you see for your current and future projects. There’s a constant struggle between living and observing. Last night I attended a local fire department event with my husband, and it just so happens that one of the characters in my next novel is a volunteer firefighter — which meant that although my intention was leave my writer hat at home for the night and just have a good time, I observed lots of things during the evening where the hatless writer in me would whisper in my ear, Oooh, that’s good! Remember that.
Generally, what I do in those situations is whip out my cell phone and then email myself whatever observation I’m trying to capture, so that I know it’s safe and preserved and then I can go back to the living part of the evening. Sometimes I’ll take my phone out ten times within the span of a few hours, but then once the business of writing is done I can go back to my herb-crusted salmon and dinner conversation. You might think that’s a bit disruptive (or obsessive), but for me it’s better than spending the entire night worrying that I’ll forget whatever it is I want to remember — I’ve tried it, and in the end I neither live nor observe, because I wind up spending the night worrying and forgetting.
I have been a New York Knicks fan for a long time. Very long. About twenty years, since the time Pat Riley joined the team as coach (before he became the enemy). And, coincidentally, the same amount of time, more or less, that I’ve been a professional writer. Last night’s crushing loss to the Boston Celtics made me realize how similar being a Knicks fan is to being a writer.
- It’s unbelievably stressful at times. When Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith go cold, as they did last night, it’s excruciating. Nothing is working. The ball goes in the air and you think, this is it, and then it bounces off the rim and is rebounded by the other team. I know that feeling as a writer, when the words just aren’t coming. You try and you try, but you just can’t make that basket. It sucks. Sisyphus has nothing on you.
- It’s unbelievably glorious at times. When Anthony or Smith or Raymond Felton scores a three-pointer at the buzzer or can’t miss a shot, it’s heaven. The basketball gods are smiling on you, birds are singing, the sky is filled with sunshine. Same as true when the words are flowing, as a writer. I become Spike Lee standing up from his courtside seat, pumping my fists.
- The road is looong. The Knicks haven’t won a championship in forty years. And when I tell you it’s been almost 20 years since we even PLAYED in a basketball championship, you should know that I have felt every one of those twenty years. A writing career is similar, filled with starts and stops, disappointments and victories, ups and downs. Accepted pitches and rejection letters come in the same day. Even, like the Knicks, my players have changed over the years — many of the magazines and websites I wrote for five years ago have folded or ceased operation, new ones taking their places. Every year is essentially a new season. Sure, there’s no championship to be had in writing — unless, of course, you’re vying for the Pulitzer and, hey, why not? — but it is goal-oriented. You want to get a piece in THAT magazine or THAT anthology or get picked up by THAT publisher. You work toward achieving whatever goal or game winner there is.
- Continue reading
Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with news that author Anne Rice posted a link on her Facebook page noting that a blogger had given her novel, Pandora, a bad review and proceeded to rip up the book (literally) for a decoupage project. For those of us who follow Rice on Facebook, she wrote her customary “Comments welcome” above this post, which she often does to promote discussion about various things — usually current events. Although she didn’t encourage anyone to, needless to say, many of Rice’s 740,000+ FB fans barged over to the blogger’s page and let her have it. And some of the comments left for this blogger were pretty hurtful.
Anytime an author interacts with a reviewer, particularly one who has given a bad review, sparks are bound to fly. I agree with the first line of this Mary Sue blog post which discusses the Anne Rice incident: “If there’s one valuable lesson a creator can learn, it’s not to engage with reviewers.” I just feel like there is nothing to be gained by confronting someone who posts a bad review. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and shouldn’t have to defend it or justify it.
The other day, a blogger wrote (for the life of me, I can’t remember where — I read so many blogs!) that his grandfather told him never to look strangers in the eye, particularly when you see them acting erratically. You just keep walking. The blogger said he uses his grandfather’s advice when dealing with internet commenters — who, essentially, are strangers.
I agree. When faced with a poor review, rather than pull an Anne Rice or give into the temptation of confrontation, an author’s best recourse is to steer clear and just keep walking.
Today’s Debut Author Q&A features a very special writer to me and to this blog. Julia Munroe Martin has been a supporter of Baby Grand and Making ‘Baby Grand’ for as long as I can remember. It is a privilege and an honor to have her here today to talk about her debut novel, Desired to Death. Her answers to my questions made me think about my own fiction journey – our paths are very similar, our ideas for our novels formed many years ago. So without further ado, I bring you the world’s newest mystery writer.
Name: Julia Munroe Martin (writing as J.M. Maison)
Name of book: Desired to Death (Book 1 of The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series)
Book genre: Mystery
Date published: April 29, 2013 (ebook); paperback in about 3 weeks
Where can we find your book: Amazon
What is your day job? This is it! I am a journalist by education, worked as a technical writer for about 10 years, then as a freelance writer. Now I focus almost exclusively on fiction.
What is your book about? This book answers the question: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? After her daughter leaves for college, former-SAHM Maggie True is faced with an empty nest and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Never in her wildest dreams does small-town Maggie imagine the answer will come in the form of a middle-of-the-night call for help from an estranged friend who has just been arrested for murder. But it does, and as Maggie solves the mystery of who killed A.J. Traverso, a sexy kickboxing instructor, she also solves the mystery of what to do for the rest of her life.
Why did you want to write this book? This idea came to me after my son left for college, when I wondered what the future held. It was a very tough transition for me, especially when a few years later my daughter left for college. Going through that transition, from stay home mom AND writer to “just” work at home writer, wasn’t easy. I’ve always been the kind of person who observes and watches everything and, clearly, makes up stories about it all. And my loose ends led me to ask the question “What if?” or maybe even “If only.”